I had gastric bypass surgery on January 24, 2018. I don’t have to justify my decision, but suffice to say I knew I had to do it to save my life. My ability to work was rapidly diminishing. I could not do the things I enjoyed. I could not get pregnant. I was having difficulty breathing–I had sleep apnea. My depression was worsening. My anxiety was becoming uncontrollable.
Wicca is a healing art. I’ve used many of the techniques that have been part of my training and practice to manage my health over the years, but Wicca is not an absolute power. Neither is modern medicine. Both have their pros and their cons. To reject one utterly in favor of the other is unbalanced, and leaves us weakened. Witches use what works, we just remember more of the old remedies that sometimes modern medicine would rather we forget because of their own failings, and sometimes we become mistrustful of doctors and miss out on powerful new developments in the healing arts.
It is important that we move past our mutual misgivings and learn to work together.
So when my own work was not cutting it anymore, I turned to modern medicine. I made a decision. No amount of exercise, no type of dieting was cutting it anymore. For many people, it’s not so simple as put down the fork or go to the gym. Myself and more than one of my friends will literally gain five pounds over night just for eating a sandwich–oh, sure, it doesn’t seem possible, it must be water weight…and yet, it never falls off again. And we are not just full of water.
For six months I saw doctors, followed a strict diet, went to group therapy sessions…and finally, finally was cleared for surgery.
Anyone who thinks weight loss surgery is the easy path or “cheating” can go ahead and throat punch themselves and save me the trouble of having to do it.
I had complications immediately after surgery. I had severe pain when I woke up (I woke up howling…no, seriously, literally howling). When I could finally articulate words, I asked for Dilaudid, and that finally started to help. I was getting ready to be transferred to the regular floor, and declined to receive more Dilaudid so that I could get to the business of healing in my own hospital room. Once upstairs, I asked for more pain meds..”Well….you’ve had a lot of narcotics already…let’s try Tylenol…” you know, less than 2 hours out of surgery. Tylenol. What a joke. Thankfully my surgeon came up to the room shortly after that, and he looked at the nurse and told her directly to her face, “Give her the oxycodone I ordered her.” The day went better after that. My nurse that night was experienced with bypass patients as well–it was a good night.
But somehow my 6am Toradol dose got missed. Toradol is like suped up Ibuprofen (i.e., Advil) that you can take IV. I was getting it around the clock, scheduled. Anti-inflammatory. Great stuff right after getting your insides rearranged. I woke up, and I needed to use the bathroom. I needed to pee, but, being the nurse-patient I am, damned if I was going to call for help–and it was almost 9am, I hadn’t seen anyone yet, so my post-surgical brain is going, “Meh, you gotta be able to use the bathroom by yourself by tomorrow anyway.” So, with much pain and struggling, bent half over, I get myself to the bathroom. My nurse arrived while I was in there, so he told me he’d be back with my meds.
In the meanwhile, another of his patients apparently coded, was intubated on the floor and sent to ICU. That’ll set a nurse back by at least an hour. So a colleague came to give me my meds around 10am. Two hours until my next Toradol dose is due…”Well you missed your 6am dose but it’s almost noon I don’t know what he’s going to want to do…” “Let’s keep it easy, I’ll take my Toradol at its scheduled time, just bring me my oxycodone and Tylenol now.” She doesn’t bring me the 10mg of oxycodone I’d been taking, she only brings me 5–whatever, I don’t want to argue. It’s enough to get me by for a little while.
Not too long after, I hear her updating my nurse in the hallway. …”You gave her oxy?! Oh no no no, she’s 24 hours post op, she shouldn’t be on that anymore.” So he comes in, looking kind and reasonable–and honestly, for the most part, he is–and tells me he’s going to get my order changed. To Ultram. Technically this is a narcotic, but damn if Ultram isn’t the wimpiest of all of the narcotics you can take. I shouldn’t have agreed to it–but neither should my surgery team have allowed it. I was the first bypass patient at that hospital, though, we were all on a learning curve. I took the Ultram.
It seemed to help. But I think the Toradol was more effective, honestly. They also said I gauze that needed to come out–but on initial assessment, the gauze was not evident. Turned out it slipped back inside of me. Got left in my abdomen for 48 hours. The “two inches” the NP thought he was supposed to remove turned out to be more like two FEET…and now it was dry, and my tissues had started healing onto it. That hurt like a bitch when it came out, but it was also, initially, a relief.
Two days after surgery, after the gauze was removed, I went home. On Ultram. You can’t take oral Toradol on a new pouch–NSAIDs can deteriorate your stomach lining, and at this stage I need to keep everything intact. So I’m on Ultram and Tylenol. I do OK the first night.
The next day, Saturday now, I wake up and go to walk. I can barely walk the hallway to my bathroom. I’m having a hard time breathing. I seem to be OK if I sit down and relax–maybe I’m pushing myself too hard? I make the decision to take a nap, let my body keep healing.
That evening, I’m sitting in my chair, and I notice that I am struggling to breathe at rest. I’m only 33. I have no history of respiratory disease. This isn’t normal. I call the fellow on-call. Pulseox is 87%, HR in the 110’s-120’s. Time to go to the ER.
Takes a little while to be seen. I’m stable, if struggling. Finally get a bed–labs are taken, imaging studies ordered. Potassium was a touch low, so I’m given some. They won’t get me O2 because they can’t get my blood gas–takes 4 tries. Metabolic alkalosis. No surprise, I just had gastric bypass. Finally get some O2, 3L nasal cannula. Oxygen level starts to come up, but it’s not staying up unless I concentrate on breathing very deeply. This is easier to do now because they gave me some IV Toradol. CT scan gets done–I have atelectasis. Alveoli in the bases of my lungs collapsed so I’m not getting gas exchange. How, you ask?
Poor pain control resulting in shallow breathing, even with incentive spirometer…here’s a hint, kids: even if your patient is a nurse and experienced with these devices, you should be making sure she is using it properly and getting the correct amount of volume. No one ever checked to make sure I was using it correctly. I wasn’t. I’m post surgery, I’m not thinking clearly. It would’ve been nice to have someone check on this.
Deep breathing, pain meds…I start to feel much better. I try to tell the MDs that the last time I had belly surgery Percocet kept me well controlled–but they don’t listen. Won’t listen.
Here’s something you may not know: Every time a narcotic is prescribed, it goes into a national reporting system. Before a controlled substance is prescribed, it is the due diligence of a physician to look the patient up in the system and see what they have been prescribed and when. It’s not uncommon for that list to be so long the doctor has to scroll through it. I saw my list yesterday. There are only 5 entries. CLEARLY I have never had a problem with substance abuse.
But with the current opioid crisis? They won’t even consider it.
Nevermind that I was SUPPOSED to be discharged on oxycodone per the program. It’s in my book. I didn’t realize this until I was already discharged. The fellow on call said the residents from the program would see me, by the way.
They never did.
Oh and I had a hematoma in the location the gauze had been the size of a Coke can. Another “no duh” to my breathing and pain issue. That’s a lot of blood in one place.
So I went home, told to just take my Tylenol and Ultram (ha!). Twenty-four hours later…
I call the nurse coordinator. Turns out no one told my surgeon I was in the ER over the weekend. Neat. I’m still having pain. My surgeon wants me to come in and be seen in the office.
While I am in the office, my pain becomes so excruciating I am screaming out. They rush me back to the ER. Drama…hours…more drama…I finally get pain relief. My surgeon’s fellow comes to see me. They FINALLY prescribe me the oxycodone. I’m kept overnight for observation.
I did well after that. I was very happy. Losing weight, advancing my diet. I was having some issues with swallowing, so they did an EGD. Same day as that, I got a call from my employer–they lost a quarter of their census. No hours for me. Will I work elsewhere in the company?…Not with my trust issues with them. I trusted my supervisor. I trusted my co-workers where I was before surgery. I trusted no one else. Nursing…nursing destroyed my soul. I’m burned out.
So now I basically don’t have a job.
But, if they get admissions, I can have my position back. So I need a short term plan. I decide to go back to lifeguarding. But I need to be recertified.
The American Red Cross is stupid. I support their life-saving work, don’t get me wrong. But I swear they change shit just to change shit. It used to be that when you extracted a drowning victim from the water, the primary rescuer would get the person in the water, and a second rescuer would use a backboard as a lever to help get them out safely. They would sink the backboard straight up and down in the water against the wall, the primary would hand up the victim’s hand, and then get out of the water and grab the victim’s other hand. Two people, each with a wrist in one hand and the backboard in the other, dividing the strain between them, would lever the victim out of the water together.
Now the secondary rescuer has to do it alone. One hand on the backboard, one on the wrist, tilt and PULL. That kind of torque on the shoulder pulling the board?
It’s no wonder I got injured. It’s not good for the victim, either, because you are not really supposed to pull on their joint, but you have to as a single extractor.
Arm sprain. Narrowly missed rotator cuff tear.
I can’t complete the training. I can’t work as a lifeguard. That avenue is now closed off to me.
In sets the depression…
I hate nursing. I love it. I hate it. I am tired of the abuse. I am tired of the exhaustion. I can’t work nights. Everyone wants you to work nights. I’m burned out on the bedside.
Too much time. Too much time to think, to worry. To over examine everything going on with my body. Uncontrolled vomiting…two days in the hospital…
Ah, the anxiety. Paranoia. Now that my body is feeling much better, my mind is adrift in a sea of the unknown. Fear. Convinced that everything is falling apart around me. Worried about my liver again even though I have no liver symptoms…yes I had a soft pale stool but it was one…one day…turns out my best friend had a similar issue, and we’d eaten together the day before…but suddenly my brain in telling me I am going to die of liver failure. I don’t drink…but being fat has clearly killed me…it was too late, the bypass isn’t going to save my life…
Oh my Goddess.
This journey. This bypass journey has been incredibly difficult. First physically, now mentally. And it’s not over yet. Sure I’ve lost 60 lbs since starting this journey, and I otherwise feel great. But it is not easy. It is a mind fuck.
I am working very hard on straightening all of this out. Letting the paranoia go. Letting the anxiety go. Letting the depression go. Accepting this new normal. Accepting that I CAN be healthy.
Through it all, the number one thing actually keeping me sane IS my Craft. I can let go when I am focusing on being the Priestess. I spend a lot of time at a local shop, just grounding, occasionally helping customers find what they need. Soon I’ll be teaching and doing Crystal Healings. And in doing healing, I am hoping to find some of the healing that I need for myself.
Maintaining that connection to Goddess and Spirit is invaluable. It’s not easy. Gods, none of these things are EASY. Why do people assume others choices or modes of worship or therapeutic actions are ever the EASY way out, just because they are different? No one’s path is simple or easy. We are all souls struggling to find our way back to center.
But one of my coven told me something powerful.
Every time we take a breath, it is an opportunity to start again. To reset. To come back to center. Take a mulligan. Reset button.
So I have to remind myself…to just…